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Dodgers Dugout: Bullpen has been an overlooked factor amid all these comeback victories

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and if you go to bed before the Dodger game ends each night, then you are missing the best part of the season.

Unsung heroes

One of the best things about this year’s team is that there are a lot of players you can point to and think, “He could be an MVP or Cy Young winner.” Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Chris Taylor, Corey Seager, Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Kenley Jansen. Because there are so many individuals to choose from, one area often gets overlooked: the bullpen. In fact, the bullpen is the biggest concern among Dodgers fans who email me.

One of the key stats for relievers is Inherited Runners Scored% (IRS%), which works like this: If a reliever comes into a game with three runners on base, and two of them score, then his IRS% is a horrible 66.7%. If one runner scores, it is 33.3%. If no runners score, it is 0%.

The NL average this season for IRS% is 31%. The Dodgers have the second-best IRS% in the NL at 24.4%. Last season it was 28%. In 2015, 32.5%.

The reason IRS% is important is because it can be used to see how effective relievers are at pitching out of jams. It is more important than ERA, because if a pitcher comes in with the bases loaded and allows all three to score, his ERA will be 0.00, but his IRS% will be 100%.

With that in mind, let’s look at key Dodgers relievers and their IRS% this season compared with last season.

Luis Avilan

2016: 26.9%

2017: 21.1%

Pedro Baez

2016: 44.4%

2017: 6.7%

Tony Cingrani

2016: 38%

2017: 0% (with Dodgers)

Grant Dayton

2016: 25%

2017: 9.1%

Josh Fields

2016: 17.6%

2017: 45.5%

Kenley Jansen

2016: 7.1%

2017: 22.2%

Brandon Morrow

2016: 16.7%

2017: 0%

Ross Stripling

2016: 33.3%

2017: 38.5%

Tony Watson

2016: 12.5%

2017: 33.3% (with Dodgers)

As you can see, Pedro Baez has completely turned it around this season. His biggest weakness before this season was his tendency to fall apart when he was brought in with runners on base. Now he is a shutdown setup man.

For those of you who prefer the more traditional ERA, they Dodger bullpen leads in that too, with a 3.01. The Cubs are second at 3.60. The bullpen also leads the NL with 26 wins, a product of all those come-from-behind victories.

So, while I was nervous about the bullpen the last few seasons, I am not as concerned this season. They have proved time and again that they can hold the other team scoreless, and when the Dodgers do have one of those miraculous comeback victories, part of the reason is because the bullpen has done its job so well.

It can’t be true

At last, our long national nightmare is over. Let the record reflect that on Aug. 15, 2017, at approximately 3:30 p.m. Pacific time, the Dodgers traded Chris Hatcher to the Oakland A’s in exchange for international bonus signing pool money.

I have been writing this newsletter for three years, and Hatcher has been a favorite target of mine, mainly because I could never figure out why the Dodgers kept him around considering he has rarely been a good pitcher.

Hatcher has a career 4.70 ERA in seven seasons in the majors, including 4.64 in three seasons with the Dodgers. He has a career WAR of -1.0, which means you could have called up any random guy from the minors and gotten better pitching. His career ERA+ is 84, meaning he has been 16% worse than a league average pitcher in his career.

But now that he’s gone, I wish him well. I hope he pitches well for Oakland (except against the Dodgers) and that he has a long, fruitful career.

Comparison

Now let’s compare this year’s Dodgers team at this point in the season with the teams that posted the best records in Dodgers history (since 1901).

2017: 85-34, .714

1953: 81-38, .681 (finished season 105-49, .682, lost World Series to Yankees)

1942: 84-35, .706 (finished season 104-50, .675, did not make postseason)

1941: 77-42, .647 (finished season 100-54, .649, lost World Series to Yankees)

1955: 78-41, .655 (finished season 98-55, .641, won World Series over Yankees)

1974: 75-44, .630 (finished season 102-60, .630, lost World Series to Oakland)

Ask Ross Porter

Bruce Figoten asks: Alex Wood is 14-1, but is not listed among the NL ERA leaders. Why?

Ross: To qualify, Bruce, a pitcher must have a minimum of one inning pitched per game. The Dodgers have played 119 games and Wood has 117.1 innings so he should qualify in his next start. Kershaw leads at 2.04 with Max Scherzer at 2.25 and Wood at 2.30.

Al Frank asks: How many complete games do the Dodgers have?

Ross: Only one, Al. Kershaw beat the Royals 5-2 on July 9.

Jack Evans asks: What is the fewest pitches thrown in a nine-inning game, Ross?

Ross: 58 by Charles “Red” Barrett of the Boston Braves. On Aug. 10, 1944, he beat the Reds, 2-0, yielded two hits, had no strikeouts or walks, and averaged two pitches per batter. It was the shortest night game in history at 1 hour, 15 minutes. Barrett pitched in the majors from 1937 to 1949, and won an NL high 23 games in 1945, two with the Braves and 21 for the Cardinals.

Doug Lemen asks: How many umpires are there and what are they paid?

Ross: There are 76 major league umps this year and 22 from triple-A who are fill-ins, mostly used as vacation replacements. Big league umpires earn $100,000 to $300,000 a year, depending on their experience. Doug, they also are paid $357 a day for hotel and meals. Minor league umps earn between $1,800 to $3,400 each month during the season.

Judy Lucas asks: What was the Brooklyn Dodgers' record in World Series?

Ross: 1-8. Won in 1955, lost in 1916, 1920, 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, and 1956. Six of the losses were to the Yankees.

Next series

Friday, 4 p.m. PT, Dodgers (Rich Hill, 8-4, 3.44) at Detroit (Jordan Zimmermann, 7-9, 5.62)

Saturday, 1 p.m. PT, Dodgers (Hyun-jin Ryu, 4-6, 3.63) at Detroit (Michael Fulmer, 10-10, 3.78)

Sunday, 10 a.m. PT, Dodgers (Kenta Maeda, 11-4, 3.76) at Detroit (Justin Verlander, 8-8, 4.11)

Note: Pitchers are subject to change

And finally

Dodgers set their postseason ticket prices. Better start saving your spare change. Click here to read the story.

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me and follow me on Twitter: @latimeshouston.

Houston.mitchell@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimeshouston

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